While footballing history spans more than a century, the footballing industry has only begun to bloom over the last few years. The emergence of business oligarchs taking control of Football clubs, bringing in their set of business administration experts and scores of data analysts brought a freshness to the game very few imagined. However, these are just the beginnings of the sporting world that is believed to be on a revolutionary path. However, despite big money coming into game via sponsorship and TV rights, the bread and butters of a club’s performance on the pitch or off it is the performance of players. While no club classifies its players as assets in its balance sheet, they remain the most productive (and many a times unproductive asset for a club). In this article, we look at Assets (Players) who have not turned up by and large in the season gone by, but could be, with some tinkering (in terms of tactics and physical fitness) be game changers in the season to come, be it in the jersey they fit into now or otherwise.
Ross Barkley’s name was on everyone’s lips at the end of the last season. The English midfielder was touted as the next big name, for his club as well country. Many even went on to believe that his demands would soon outrun Everton’s financial position and would be subject to a big money move to the brighter, richer clubs in England. A year has passed and it is a very disturbing thought that the future of England football team and touted to be worth a valuation of £50 million no longer merits a starting spot at Goodison Park. The youngster injured his medial ligament in the pre-season and has since shown his potential in only bits and pieces. He has been in and out of the squad, either with injuries or form and that has not helped his stock in the football market. It appears like the youngster has failed to shrug off the scars of the injury and make an impact of.
However, anyone who thinks that the Evertonian is a spent force at the age of 21 must reconsider his opinion. A bad season, marred by recurring injuries shouldn’t undermine his performances in an Everton shirt last season and one must also take into account the common scout market belief that he is one of the brightest talents emerging out of England. Barkley is an exciting prospect, he might not like to plunge into tackles as often as most central midfielders do, but he surely loves to have a go at the opposition with the ball at his feet, thus making him a threat. Quality reinforcements that would fit in the spine of the team are becoming a rare commodity to garner and many a team are on the lookout for a quality central midfielder to fill the boots of their fading legends.
While Everton’s management would like to believe that the Englishman values in excess of £50 million pounds, anything in excess of £30 million alongside a multimillion pound a year wage deal for Barkley himself should suffice to turn heads. Should Barkley be given a chance at a bigger stage coupled with the right coaching (Don’t forget he is still just 21 years old), he could well turn out to be a game changer for many clubs in English league and abroad.
Rodriguez shot to fame as a youngster at Burnley, scoring 41 goals in the 128 appearances he made for them. The English international’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed as Southampton snapped him up for £7 million in 2012. His stock has risen substantially since then. Having scored 26 goals in 76 appearances for Southampton, Rodriguez has established himself as a fan favourite. However, despite his heroics the player hasn’t featured under new manager Ronald Koeman and is unlikely to do so till the end of this season due to the anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered in April, 2014. This will give his current manager some food for thought as Rodriguez’ contract expires in just over 12 months and the management of the club will be in a dilemma whether to cash in on his previous exploits, especially considering the long injury lay off or give him the chance to rebuild his career at St. Mary’s.
At a time when good strikers are a rare commodity, the Englishman might well prove to be an excellent buy if he leaves behind the troubles of this long-term layoff. While Southampton and Koeman (who has made done some excellent work in the market) might value the striker very high, the fact that he has been out for more than a year now and his contract runs out soon can be detrimental to his valuation in the market.
Many people believe that Balotelli is a lost cause. The world would like to believe that the once wonder boy has been undone by his many distractions off-field. However, to be fair to “Balo”, he has often been undone by the tactics of his manager. It is a known fact the world over that the Italian fits the bill of a second-striker perfectly. Should he be surrounded by intelligent players darting off the ball, Balotelli is believed to be at optimal utilisation. However, that hasn’t failed to materialise at Liverpool as manager Brendan Rodgers has more often than not deployed Mario in an isolated single striker formation.
When the club bought the Italian, he wasn’t supposed to fill in for Daniel Sturridge while he was injured. It was believed that the Italian would be given some time to form a partnership with the Englishman. However, Sturridge’s many injuries over the last year have meant that Balotelli hasn’t prospered either and many people believe he is on his way out of Liverpool. While it remains to be seen if the Italian remains at Anfield or not, he is definitely one of those players who could turn the game on its head. Also, the Italian is still in mid 20’s meaning his resale value hasn’t lost its sheen.
A look at the statistics reveals that while he has not contributed any assists, his goal to shot ratio stands at a feeble 1/54. Yes, historically, he doesn’t assist a lot, but then, judging him by that to determine if he is a world class second striker would be unfair as if he brings the players around him into meaningful play. The same would go on in the head of many a suitor who would have the required personnel for Balotelli to flourish and the Italian could be back in the headlines for the footballing reasons in the year to come.
One of the things that started floating around the web after the PFA Team of the Year was announced was that both Falcao and Coutinho had scored 4 goals and assisted 4 each in the season so far and while Coutinho was in the PFA Team of the Year, Falcao was said to have underperformed. The Colombian has been a shadow of himself at Manchester United and the player, fans as well as management have realised that. This has led to a tricky situation for manager Van Gaal as Falcao’s contract is a loan with possibility of a buy arrangement. While Van Gaal evaluates his options, the media has gone into a frenzy reporting that United’s arch-rival Liverpool are set to take Falcao to Anfield come the end of the season and these rumours refuse to die down.
This might prove to be a very risky move should the Reds pursue it as their current season was marred by long absence of star-striker Sturridge and Falcao’s injury is said to have hampered his performances this season. The club needs a number 9 who knows where the back of the goal and a fit and raring Falcao fits the bill perfectly. Yes, his touch has been poorer than in the previous league and he has missed some golden sitters, and these are worrying concerns about whether the player can turn the clock back or will he fade away.
We expect clubs to still swarm Falcao should United not exercise their right to sign him come the end of the season. While his parent club will be looking to take a full and final settlement he is a risky buy with humongous wages and we believe that the striker will only move on a loan.
These players represent a minority of players who haven’t lived up to their billing in the season so far and could be in the market due to the contractual issues or otherwise. However, these are players who are believed to be technically sound and they haven’t been game changers at your club, they could be so elsewhere.